HSE rules out food tests for patients with stomach problems
THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has ruled out testing patients for food intolerance, despite experts' claims the move would save the Exchequer at least €8m a year.
It is estimated there has been a massive 50pc jump in the number of people privately taking food intolerance tests in pharmacies and nutritional practitioners around the country in the past two years.
The tests are expensive, ranging in price from €135 to €255. However, some health experts argue the tests can save patients who suffer from gastric problems a lot of money in the long run, as well as helping to treat the underlying causes of their condition.
Fitzwilliam Foodtest Clinic Director Martin Healy called on new Health Minister Leo Varadkar to introduce regular food testing for patients with gastric problems attending GPs and hospitals.
He claimed the tests would save the HSE at least €8m a year, based on the cost of current methods of treatment.
"It is time for the HSE to get beyond the scepticism of an old guard and it is not a lot to ask, considering the potential financial savings to our crippled health service," said Mr Healy.
"I would think that €8m is a conservative figure when you look at the numbers of people who are on lifelong medication," he added.
Some 50pc of the people who privately pay for food tests every week are discovered to have a food intolerance.
"All of these people who have chronic conditions can be managed much better by managing their diets. Rather than having people lying back passively in their hospital beds waiting for their next drug round, people are now actively involved in their condition," he told the Sunday Independent.
However, the HSE said that it is not interested in using non-medicine based care practices to assist patients.
A HSE spokesperson told the Sunday Independent: "Clinicians in both primary and secondary care use their professional training, expertise, clinical skills and appropriate laboratory tests to diagnose and treat patients with food intolerance.
"In recent years, many commercially available food intolerance tests have become available, but the HSE could not fund tests that are not supported by evidence-based medicine."
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said it could not comment on food intolerance tests because it does "not have a specific policy" on them.
A spokeswoman said the IMO would need to have a committee meeting about the issue to confirm its stance.
Many GPs traditionally oppose the tests, although some doctors are warming to the idea in recent years.
Mr Healy, who has worked in food intolerance clinics in Ireland and the UK for the past 30 years, said 80pc of people who discover they are averse to certain foods experience a profound improvement in their health once they adjust their diets.
"Within four weeks, people show significant improvement - but we do recommend that you give it a lengthy trial of 12 weeks," he added.
"Food intolerances are very different to allergies. More foods are involved and it affects more people. An allergy can knock you down and kill you, but intolerance is a chronic irritation or inflammation."